MINSTER — Just three years ago the notion that Minster and Marion Local would become a running playoff football rivalry seemed unlikely.
The Flyers have been a model of consistency over the past 15 seasons, racking up five state championships between stints in Divisions V and VI. Minster, meanwhile, was mired in a stretch of six straight seasons without a winning record and just two seasons with a winning record in the previous 13 seasons before Nate Moore took over in 2010. Marion Local had won 11 of the last 12 meetings against Minster heading into 2010.
The one-sidedness all changed in short order, starting with Minster’s stunning 2010 playoff run and win over the Flyers.
Now Moore’s Wildcats (9-2) and Tim Goodwin’s Flyers (9-2) are meeting for the third straight postseason after splitting their previous two playoff encounters. They’ll kick off a regional semifinal on Friday night at Alexander Stadium in Piqua at 7:30 p.m.
“I think it is two really evenly-matched teams,” Tim Goodwin said.
The gap between the programs has closed quickly, though the Wildcats have yet to break through past the regional level during this run while Marion Local added another state title trophy a season ago.
In 2010, a 5-5 Minster team found its way into the postseason by winning five of its final six games of the regular season despite a 41-6 loss to Marion Local earlier in the season. After stunning top-seeded Springfield Catholic Central in Week 11, Minster upended the Flyers 30-26 in a regional semifinal at Wapakoneta behind the bravado of quarterback Chase Paxson and the Minster defense forcing a pair of late turnovers deep in Minster territory.
Minster didn’t sneak up on a dominant Flyer squad last season.
In 2011, Marion Local exacted its revenge. The Flyers won the regular season match-up 26-17 and then blanked Minster 28-0 in a regional final match-up at Wapakoneta. Marion Local went on to win the Division VI state title game 61-21 over Buckeye Central two weeks later.
Three of the four teams left in Region 24 hail from the Midwest Athletic Conference. St. Henry plays Ada in the region’s other match-up on Friday night.
Not that Moore and the Wildcats expected anything else.
“At the beginning of the season you see you don’t have them on your schedule but you know Marion Local is a team you could see in the playoffs,” Moore said.
Minster rolled to a 48-7 win against an overmatched Tri-County North last Friday at Memorial Field — one of five wins by MAC schools in the first week of the playoffs. Minster running back Korey Schultz ran for 102 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Adam Niemeyer was efficient, going 16 of 22 passing for 264 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. Devon Poeppelman led the way receiving with 76 yards on four catches with a touchdown. Senior Troy Kauffman led the Wildcats with six tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss. Poeppelman and Prater Otting had interceptions.
Marion Local had little trouble in a 53-27 win over Bradford in Maria Stein last Friday. Quarterback Adam Bertke went 8 of 9 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another score. All-MAC running back Jacy Goettemoeller ran the ball 11 times for 110 yards and three touchdowns of 14, 3 and 2 yards in the game’s first half.
Both offenses are skilled.
“I think both teams’ offenses are a tough match-up for the other team’s defense,” Tim Goodwin said.
Adam Bertke’s stellar numbers on Friday came after a regular season where his statistics took a hit from a season ago. Without his security blankets at wide receiver like graduated speedster Lee Pierron, Bertke had to adjust to an offense that had fewer downfield weapons and dabbled in the spread early in the season. Bertke has completed 62 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,627 yards. He has 11 passing touchdowns, but he has also thrown 11 interceptions.
“He doesn’t have those three great receivers around him like he did last year,” Goodwin said. “It’s been a process getting used to a new group of receivers. The number smay not be there, but he’s playing great football.”
Moore said his team isn’t fooled by the statistics. Bertke is still the type of premier quarterback that led the Flyers to the state title a season ago. “He’s a young quarterback who is still developing,” Moore said. He doesn’t have all the weapons around him he had a season ago. He’s a guy who can make all the throws and can run it both scrambling and with the designed runs they have for him. The interceptions have just been him maybe trying to squeeze the ball into a tight window.”
Goettemoeller gives the Flyers the tough-nosed rushing game Marion Local is known for. Goettemoeller has carried the ball 182 times for 1,128 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 19 rushing touchdowns. Goettemoeller has also caught 22 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
The Flyers have four receivers with more than 250 yards receiving, including leading receiver Mark Thobe (25 catches, 361 yards) and Hunter Wilker (24 catches, 341 yards).
Marion Local’s offense scored more than 40 points in each of the first four games of the season. Marion Local’s 53-point outburst last week was the first time they’d topped 40 points in five weeks. Losses to Versialles (24-14) and Coldwater (27-0) were the only losses. Key wins included a 14-0 win over Delphos St. John’s in Week 6 and a 27-21 win over Anna in Week 9.
Moore expects Marion Local to be aggressive defensively. “They’re traditionally a team that’s going to come after you,” he said. “They’ve got some young guys in the secondary, but they’re as strong as ever up front and they’ve got really good linebackers.”
All-MAC linebackers Kyle Mescher (102 tackles) and Alaric Keller lead the Flyers defensively. “We go defensively as they go,” Goodwin said.
Goettemoeller has four interceptions in the secondary.